Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Orlando, FL
Bikes: 1985 Falcon, 2008 Jamis Dakota Sport
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First, fit is probably the most important issue as they are all good bikes. The shop can guess at the size, but make sure will exchange for a size if incorrect. I am looking at two of the bikes, the Giant xct2 and the GF Marlin (plus the Cannondale F5) as they are all closely equipted amnd my optimal size is 19/large. I an ride a 17/medium but it is tighter. For reference, I am 5'10.5". While my pant size is 38x30 you never go by that. It will be difficult to slyly get this inseam measurement as it requires standing with riding shoes on, book shug to crotch, then measure distance to floor. Mine is 32.5" (not 30 as my pant size would suggest.) That standover height of 32.5 comes into play with the bike geometry, and the Gary Fisher (29") gives greater clearance than the Giant (32.4") with the Cannondale (31") in the middle. If I go with the Giant, may have to consider a medium frame for the lower standover and a longer stem for stretch.
Now the bikes.
First, the Ranier. Must be an 07 model as doesn't show on the 08 web site. MSRP in 07 was $670 and hopefully they are discounting it significantly. Good fork (also used on the 08 xct model), deore drivetrain,and I believe 3 of the bikes use the same Avid 5 disc brakes. Frame well tested as appears to bethe same frame used on all HT Giants in 07 - Boulder on up.
Assuming the remainder are 08 models as the XCT didn't exist, and there was significan equiptment change on the same model name Gary Fishers between 07 and 08.
The XCT2 and GF Marlin Disc (and Cdale F5) are very similar specd and should be competitively priced (locally around $650 from the 690-700MSRP). Very well equipted bikes. That is a new frame this year for the XCT (and the Cdale). Quite responsive on the test rides and I could live with any of them.
The XCT and GF Tassajara (and Cdale F4) are the next step up. While the same frames, they have better forks (not that anything was wrong with the others, as they were not bottom rung), the next higher component drive group, and while the XCT retained mechanical disc, both GF and Cdale went to the more expensive hydraulic disks.
Actually, he should be happy with any of them. The Gary Fisher has slightly different geometry than most other hardtails so if there as any way he could try them it would be best. The seat tube angle is designed to place the rider a little further back over the wheel. The GF web site has an explanation of the "Genius Geometry" that will explain it better. I personally liked it, but it is not that noticable and you would adapt to any geometry over time.